The first thing to realise is that we are all living in a computer generated world, and that we are living in the past. Nothing exists in the form that we perceive it, and by the time we perceive it, it has already happened.
That steaming cup of coffee that you see is just the result of your eyes, optic nerves and brain processing photons that hit the back of your retina. You are experiencing a brain (computer) generated model of what you now understand to be a cup of coffee.
Your brain’s processing inherently includes a delay to allow all of the bits of information to ‘catch up’. It takes longer for visual stimuli to be processed than it does for sounds. When you experience the crash of your cup on the floor your brain has had to delay presenting the event to your consciousness until the signals from both your ears and your eyes have arrived. Our reaction time is evidence of this, and the fact that we react faster to sounds than to lights. If you start a sprint race with a gun then the sprinters set off faster than if you start it with a flash of light – although the speed of sound is much slower than the speed of light.
So we do not experience the world as it is, but we experience a three dimensional model created within our brain.
As a child I used to wonder ‘does the colour green look the same to me as it does to you?’ Today I would answer almost certainly ‘no’. First of all, we know that some people are colour-blind, and so all colours must be perceived differently by them. And our eyes all have different sensitivities to shades of colours, and so the raw data that our brain has to process must be different between individuals.
But would we have the same ‘experience’ of the colour of our coffee cup if our brains received identical signals? That is a hard one, because we can’t really explain what it means to ‘experience’ a colour. (Google ‘qualia’ to find out more).
So although our bodies live in real time, we ‘experience’ a computer generated world that has already happened.
But weirder perhaps is to ask what we mean by ‘we’. What is the ‘me’ that experiences this computer generated world? Warning – science cannot answer this, it’s the meat and drink of philosophy; the discussion of abstract ideas by bright people who build arguments on certain basic assumptions that they continually disagree about.
My subjective view is that there is a ‘me’ that experiences things. I interact with my brain (and hence body, and hence world) and can influence but not control what my brain and body does. I can influence what my consciousness presents to me (ignoring distractions when focused on a task for instance), and I can influence how my body responds to things – but I am not really in control. Just think of a tennis player returning a 140mph serve; there is no time for them to get directly involved in the process of selecting which direction to go, or what shot to play. They have to leave the action up to their body. But they can influence what their body’s reaction will be by training, by giving it a strategy such as “don’t try to hit a winner off every shot”, and then they need to get out of the way! Sportsmen know that consciousness gets in the way of winning; thinking too carefully about how to play a shot at best slows things down and at worst causes us to make a mess of it.
When we think about it we realise that ‘we’ have relatively little influence on what our minds and bodies do, and yet ‘we’ get to experience it all!
And yet ‘we’ are unexplainable. To try to understand the unexplainable ‘we’, and much to the chagrin of materialistic scientists, we use terms like ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’ to define ‘us’. And we believe that other people have souls and spirit too. And we spend a lot of time and money trying to find ways to interact with our brain/bodies that will lead to our soul’s wellbeing. So much advertising money is spent on encouraging us to buy products to bring us ‘peace of mind’ or other palliatives for the soul.
It is natural, and not at all illogical, to imagine that in the same way that you and I are tiny individual souls (that happen to inhabit a bunch of chemicals that we had nothing to do with initiating) there is an overarching bigger ‘soul’ who initiated the material universe of space and time (God). And if our individual soul ‘experiences’ interaction with this bigger soul then there is all the more reason to believe in its existence. But of course, this can be frustrating to those souls who have not had similar experience…
So yes, there is a place for God in today’s world. There is good intellectual reason to believe that there is a God, and this is reinforced by the experience and evidence of many witnesses who report interaction with and experience of God. These interactions have been documented for millennia and continue today. And there are many who feel that they have directly experienced such an ‘interaction’ yet believe that there is a larger ‘soul’, or God.
In response to concluding that there is a God and recognising that our very existence is a gift, it is also natural to want to give thanks for that gift and to want to make best use of the gift. Hence there is a place for religion too in today’s world.
How about you? If you haven’t recognised them yet – why not start seeking God for yourself?
Have a blessed day.